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NBN invites all governments to participate in AU$300m regional co-investment fund

NBN's regional co-investment fund has called for government at all levels to participate in its initial funding round.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

The company responsible for the NBN is calling for expressions of interest from government agencies to take part in its AU$300 million regional co-investment fund (RCIF).

The fund, first announced in September 2020, is designed to provide fibre and digital capability upgrades in regional and rural Australia.

Government agencies at the federal, state, territory, and local levels have all been invited to submit proposals to take part in the funding round. Other parties are currently not invited to participate in the fund.

In opening up the fund to government, NBN said any money provided would be put into a co-funding program rather than a grants program, which means projects that receive money from the RCIF fund will be assessed progressively as they are received and only progress if they meet NBN's commercial investment benchmark.

"By co-investing with federal, state, and territory government agencies and local councils we will further improve access to broadband services in rural and regional Australia," chief development officer for regional development and engagement Gavin Williams said.

"Together, we can continue to enhance the digital capabilities of these important communities, boosting job prospects and helping our regions to thrive."

The rules of the program also state that NBN will retain 100% ownership of any infrastructure assets receiving funding and as such, it will be responsible to maintain the asset and be the sole recipient of any revenues derived from the asset.

Currently, the fund is only looking at injecting money into two types of NBN upgrades: Switching satellite or fixed wireless areas to fibre to the premises, or satellite areas to fixed wireless. The fund is also only focusing on larger build works, as projects that target less than 50 premises or have less than AU$500,00 total build cost being ineligible for funding.

NBN added that all build work under the program is intended to be complete by June 2024.

The funding round will be open until 18 February 2022.

So far, the AU$300 million fund has only raised money through commercial debt markets.

The RCIF fund is separate to the Regional Connectivity Program, which received an additional AU$130 million from the federal government last month.

Broken down, the AU$130 million was split into AU$106 million for a second round of the RCP, of which AU$45.6 million has been "quarantined" for Northern Australia, while the remaining amount has been slotted for additional "shovel-ready" projects in round one.

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